At some stage in the future, lockdown will end. For months we will have been meeting, talking, and socialising with the images of people on screens. When we finally get to meet with them again, how will we cope?
Can we remember the ‘social niceties’ as we used the call them, the social conventions that ensure mutual respect and deference?
I thought it would be a good idea to share with you some of the social decorum or etiquette that we were expected to follow when we were younger (which is probably before you were born, dear reader). Yes, in such prose as these when addressing the reader they were often referred to as ‘dear’ or even ‘gentle reader’!) The following relate to ‘greetings’ in the 1960s. Some of these conventions are still applied by the ‘old school’!
• If a lady entered a room all the gentlemen were expecteed to stand. If a large room or hall, or in a large gathering it was understood that only those whom she approached would stand until she was seated.
• All gentlemen would stand to shake hands but the ladies would remain seated to do the same. (I believe this is still expected and correct behavior.)
• Unless they are a relative or long standing friend or aquaintence, no kissing is allowed. If the lady leaned forward for a peck then this could be offered or received, but this was unlikely.
• Anyone senior to us in years we would call ‘sir’ or ‘madam’, unless instructed by them to do otherwise. If respect needed to be emphasised then these could be used at any time.
• If you knew someone’s Christian name you would not use it unless invited to in an introduction. It would be Mr., Mrs, or Miss as appropriate. Again, Sir or Madam could be used if superiority is clear or even suspected.
• If passing someone you know, gentlemen should raise or touch the rim of their hats. If a lady then stops to engage them in conversation the hat should be removed until the lady moves on.
– there is a lovely story involving my Father. In the early sixties he was a civil servant working in the city of London, in Somerset House. The ‘uniform’ in the city was great-coat and black bowler hat. This hat was raised or the rim touched at all required moments. One day when returning home and almost at our garden gate, he met an acquaintance. He started to raise his hat. At the same moment, his acquaintance offered his hand for a handshake greeting which was also acceptable, but was a more familiar approach. Dad accepted this and so started to offer his hand in return. His friend had also realised the disparity and was starting to raise his bowler hat at the same time. My Mother relays this story as she was watching from the window and says that the greeting was attempted three times with hats being raised and hands offered alternately, until finally they gave up and just said hello.
• On ending the conversation, if with a lady, the hat was returned to the head and with a gentleman it was raised or the rim touched on parting.
That may seem very involved but that was the way we were taught to behave, the expected ‘norms’; and THAT was just for the greeting!
I am not suggesting we re-adopt these social expectations, this was just a bit of fun. But, we can be certain that when our ‘normal’ is returned we will feel very strange shaking hands with strangers or even standing right next to them in a meeting or gathering.
I used to give a talk called ‘Selling, Ballroom Dancing and Space Invaders’. The latter reference is to those who invade our personal space. I would not be surprised if our normal personal space has been extended due to ‘social distancing’.
Let’s hope we can soon return to ‘social nearness’, or for the brave, ‘social closeness’, and we can look forward to sharing time AND SPACE with everyone we wish.
STEERING THROUGH CHOPPY SEAS
- There are some people out there who just simply do not get what you are doing in business.
- There are those out there who will show interest in your products, services, and in you, but they will then drop from the radar and not respond to any of your approaches.
- There are those those who insist you drop the price or they will go elsewhere.
- There are those who use you to put pressure on their present supplier and, in reality, have no intention of buying from you.
“If you have been affected in any way by the content of the above four statements……”
Seriously, there are many reasons that people will NOT place business with you, all of which can be overcome with careful application of recognised skills and techniques.
HOWEVER, political developments have added another issue to this list. We are to leave the EU. What comes next? No-one really knows, and because no-one knows, many businesses will cut back on their spending, buying only the ‘necessities’. If you do not sell their ‘necessities’, you are less likely, even unlikely to sell to them.
PROSPECTING AND SECURING NEW OPPORTUNITIES ARE LIKELY TO BECOME MORE DIFFICULT during the coming months.
More difficult, but not impossible. Certainly, we will need to work smarter and have plans which are carefully constructed, timed and focused. We will need contingency plans now more than ever, as we plough on into the political unknown.
To make sales; to make MORE sales in a difficult market requires new strategies, extra skills and techniques, contingencies, but most of all, it needs careful planning.
I have planned for this! I have a coaching programme called ‘2020 Vision for Business’ (what else?!) In this, we will work on sales and marketing plans, strategies and contingencies, taking sales to the next level and ‘scaling-up’ your business; to be the best while others may flounder.
Whether or not you book on the programme, you will need plans and contingencies for growing your business next year. Don’t leave your success to chance.
Plan and prepare now, to grow your business, despite political and market forces.
Whether you like or loathe the man, and there seems to be little middle ground Boris has always had a very focussed approach to Brexit. He has a plan and a strategy, rightly or wrongly.
Comparing this withe Sales Process, and there are many prarallels, he is attempting to obtain the best deal for the UK from the EU.
In every sale, the backstop; the very last option has to be a no-deal. In other words, ‘I am prepared to walk away and neither of us benefits from this relationship’. But to make that a useful negotiating tool, it must be an option available to you. If you are not prepared to walk away, no matter how much you want the deal, then the opposition will use this to their great advantage and to your disadvantage.
If they know that you are not allowed the option to walk away, the ‘no-deal’, then they will find it much easier to impose their needs and wishes over yours. It gives you a weak position from which to negotiate because they know that in the end, you will have to accept a deal that favours their needs.
Unfortunately, parliament do not understand this, or, they feel that the risk of ending up with no deal is too great. So, Boris’s hands were tied.
This point is similar to that discussed in my blog of March 2019 where the delegate was not allowed to walk away without the order. Here as well, his negotiating power was weakened and the customer had, and played the advantage.
This is not an easy line to follow. It may result in bluff and counter-bluff and a cool head is needed. However, simply believing that you have the power to walk away from the deal (even if you have no real intention to do so) may be enough to help strengthen your position.
Make sure they believe you have the choice, and then secure a better deal.
Three essentials needed by those selling into technical markets:
1/ Technical knowledge
2/ Training/Coaching in Technical Sales
3/ Motivation & self-belief
Why is technical sales training and coaching so essential?
Managers will notice a lack of confidence in those new to technical sales, and sometimes even in those who have been selling in technical markets for some time.
Lack of confidence results in reduced motivation. Less motivated salespeople will under-perform. Under-performance limits success, reducing self-belief, and so confidence dips further. This results in reduced productivity and profitability.
Likewise, the converse is true. Help in the form of training and coaching in technical knowledge and selling skills for technical markets will boost confidence, motivate and ensure more and faster success.
I remember clearly the time when I was a new sales engineer. I knew that my technical knowledge was good, but not yet complete. My confidence in selling was very low, likewise my self-belief that I was any good at selling (although I never let on!). Clearly, my bosses had seen more in me than I had; they had more belief and confidence that I would be successful. If I had thought of this I may have grown more quickly in the job.
A little sales training was offered and taken, but this was very general and did not address the specific issues met when selling in technical markets. My technical knowledge was built on the job with frequent returns to the engineering lab for help and advice. Mostly, I learned on the job.
The perceived wisdom is that for any new salesperson it would take at least a year, possibly two to become cost effective and profitable.
What if you could reduce that ‘delayed profitability’ significantly? What if it took just a few months rather than a year or two? Wouldn’t that result in more profitable sales, and faster?
Reducing the delay by nine months to a year would make a substantial difference to the number and value of the sales achieved. What extra value would that be? An extra 20 or 30% of sales from that person? It could be more. Put a value on that percentage. Would it not make sense to invest a little now to reap faster and larger turnover?
They say that the average time that a good salesperson stays with one company is no more than 2-3 years. Without training or coaching, the time when experience starts to make them profitable can be 18 months to 2 years. They may just have become profitable to you when they decide to move on. With good, tailored training, you could extend that profitable time by up to a year. Now THAT IS worth the investment!
Motivation, self-belief and self-confidence come from experience and from support. Experience takes time, but support in the form of training and coaching makes a significant difference by shortening personal development and bringing forward success.
Training and coaching result in more knowledge, skills and confidence. And hence more sales.
Communication and Buy-IN; are your customers and prospects fully engaged or merely notified?
I was training a group of 10 delegates a couple of weeks ago. They were a great bunch, very professional and clearly dedicated to the company. However, like many, they felt that contacts; customers or prospects; were not fully engaged with them. Their contacts would not respond promptly; weeks would go by with no response to a question, query or quote. Apparently, some quotes of considerable value were still outstanding and they had assumed that they had not been successful. Three things immediately sprang to mind:
FOLLOW-UP, ASSUMPTIONS and COMMUNICATION!
Any question, query or quote goes cold very quickly unless reinforced with a follow-up. They may be short of a single fact or simple clarification. ‘For a ha’porth of tar, the ship sank’ as they used to say….apparently.
This team had worked hard to offer what they felt the customer needed, but had stopped short of the follow-up. Looking keen and following up within a small number of days will only give good impressions and emphasise that yours is the company to engage in business.
This level of attention has three key benefits:
- It shows you’re keen
- It keeps you up to date with customer intentions
- It speeds up the sales process
Without effective follow-up, others will step in to take the business. The ‘personal touch’ will be lost and engagement will transfer to others who express more interest in working with them.
Rule 1 – follow-up, if you don’t, others will.
In each case assumptions have been made. It could be you are assuming you have little chance or the e business is not due to be placed yet. Maybe they have assumed that your lack of follow-up means you are less interested in the business. There are many other common assumptions and whichever side is making them, they are very dangerous and likely to damage your prospects of winning any business.
Rule 2 – never make assumptions; ASK! Summarise, clarify and confirm every time.
How you generally communicate can make a huge difference to the progress and success of the business you are chasing. I asked the team of delegates what forms of communication achieved the highest emotional connection or engagement, the most ‘buy-in’ from the customer. We produced this list in descending order. I then asked how they would usually communicate and in what proportion. The results speak for themselves:
Engagement % % usage of communication methods
Face to Face 90 5
Skype 50 5
Phone call 30 5
Letter 10 5
Email 5 90
The company relied almost wholly on email, but admitted this was the least effective when wanting to engage with customers or prospects. Despite the hard work and best of intentions, they had notified instead of engaged.
Rule 3 – if you claim to be a friendly and personable company to work with, don’t rely heavily on email for your communication. If in doubt, ask them, see them, call them, write to them; why not use two methods, write then call, or visit then write etc?
If your customers matter; and of course they do; work more closely with them to understand their need, to fulfill their need and to win the business. I am sure this team will now move forward by following up every contact and proposal as they certainly deserve the greater success it will bring.